Talk General

Think Different, Feel A Difference.

Free Range Children

Free Range Children are children who socialize without parental or other adult supervision, sometimes very far from their home. Essentially, the child perceives that he or she has gained power on how they conduct their lives. They push the boundary of freedom until their parent or guardian constrains them.

You may be familiar with a popular TV commercial that features a chicken hen ranging off its farm to travel. “She just keeps on sending pictures,” the farmer said as he received the latest in unending letters from his chicken that describe what she has seen, always including a “selfie” photograph of herself in front of what she describes.

A free range chicken is one that is able to roam the farm to chase down and eat tasty bugs, wild seed, and gravel to keep in its craw to grind what it ate (all birds do that). The farmer provides each hen a single house or a coop with a nest (or the hen constructs the nest). The hen forages about the farm as she pleases, but tends to return to her coop at dark to sleep and to hide herself from night-time predators.

Interestingly, raising free range children frees much time for their absent parents (except when the children get caught at mischief). The children tend to come home to eat, but not necessarily at family meal times. Raising free range chickens is harder work for the farmer, mostly because a free range chicken has options on where to lay eggs, and they seem to know that if they hide the eggs, they improve the chance of hatching chicks. The farmer incurs less cost to feed free rangers, because they eat wild food and only supplement their diet with commercial feed made available to them.

There is an elevated risk (of harm) to free range children and chickens alike. The farmer will likely lose more chickens to predators and road kills. The parent is not there to protect free range children from human predators or road kills. Personal opinions vary, but generally, free range children get a head start on being adults, are more likely to “launch,” and less likely to become couch potatoes. Free range chickens will be more muscular and skinny than “couch potato chickens” that you find in the grocery store. Chicken meat is sold by weight, but since the free range chickens taste superior to the over-fat chickens, they usually command a higher sale price.

Over time, governments have tightened laws to protect children and to enforce stereotypical rules of behavior on their parents. Today, it seems absurd to entertain the practice of allowing children (especially under age ten) to come and go from their home as they please. Yet, one does not have to look far back in time (1950s and earlier) to find much evidence that the practice was once common. Especially on farms, children assumed responsibilities that they were taught and could handle, and they were trusted to get those things done for their family, sometimes necessitating that they do those things at early hours and on land that ranged from the farmhouse (not all farmland is in one place).

Are the parents of free range children bad or irresponsible parents? Today, the answer from most commentators will be “Yes.” Does the practice mean that the parents do not love or care for their children? Mostly, commentators today would say “Yes” to that too. I have mixed feelings about it, because I was a free range child. As I crossed into adulthood, I perceived no constraint on where I might go or what I might do, although I placed moral, ethical, and Christian constraints on my choices. So far, I have lived my life on five continents.

Web search Genesis 3: 22-24. God loved the first man and woman, but he would not tolerate disobedience from them. Do you see how he cut them loose to range east of Eden? Did God stop loving them? “No.” Read Genesis 4:1, to see that Eve thanked God for her delivery of her first child, Cain. Keep reading Genesis to get a sense of how involved God was in Adam and Eve’s growing family, outside of Eden. Over time, free ranging generations of sons and daughters distanced themselves from God and even forgot that he was there.

Web search and carefully read Matthew 14: 13-21. Do you see some interesting details? Five thousand people plus women and children probably added up to sixteen thousand hungry people. Jesus gave thanks to God for what food that he had (2 fish and 5 loaves of bread), then he gave those to his disciples to feed them all. Yes, Jesus was the Son of God, but he was a hybrid, both God and human. Just the slightest human doubt during his three-year ministry would have crushed his purpose for God. Temptation must have dogged Jesus constantly, and if you read his story, you will see that God did not spare him from experiencing human misery. In this passage, Jesus had no doubt that God would feed the people. That event rocked! News of it spread far and wide. Four of the twelve disciples, including Matthew, wrote their memory of it.

Pay close attention to verse 20. Each of Jesus’ 12 disciples brought back to him a basket filled with leftover fish and bread. The thousands were too full to eat it! But, what was the message in this? It was a message to each disciple that God loves and provides in abundance. Jesus demonstrated to his disciples the power of having faith in God’s willingness to help them (and you) in their lives.